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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 30 Apr 1942

Vol. 86 No. 10

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Dissolution of Clare Local Authorities.

asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if he will state the reasons for removing from office the members of the council of the administrative county of Clare, the members of the Clare Board of Health and the members of the District Hospital Committee at Ennis.

The members of these bodies were removed from office because the duties of the bodies were not being duly and effectually performed. The county council failed to collect the rates punctually. The amount of rates uncollected in the financial year which ended on the 31st March last was £52,176, being equivalent to 32 per cent. of the total warrant for the year as compared with an average of 21 per cent. for all county councils. The general financial administration of the county was extremely lax. Notwithstanding constant pressure the council completely failed to carry out duties imposed on them by the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1939, and virtually ignored all communications in regard to this important matter. The board of health failed to take effective steps to collect the rents of labourers' cottages. For this reason no further loans for the erection of cottages could be sanctioned, although there is need for the erection of additional cottages in the county. The board's failure has unfortunately but unavoidably been visited upon that section of the people of Clare whom the Labourers Acts were designed to assist. The proposals of the board for the improvement of hospital services in the county were not satisfactorily dealt with. The mental hospital was not properly or efficiently managed. I am sending the Deputy copies of letters which I have sent to the county commissioner drawing special attention to defects of administration in the three bodies.

Is it correct to deduce that the sealed order which the Minister has issued for the removal from office of members of the Clare County Council is based, not upon maladministration or misapplication or misuse of public funds, but upon the basis which he has now indicated of something like laxity or inefficiency? Would the Minister agree that such a basis is highly variable and provides an unfixed and uncertain standard for terminating the tenure of office of a public body?

I should like to confirm what the Deputy has said, that there has not been any actual malversation of public funds, but there has been certainly very lax financial administration. One of the principal duties of a county council or local authority is to collect the rates necessary to maintain the public services. I would say that when that duty is not effectively performed it may lead to a very grave situation. In addition, there was the very serious matter that the county council ignored completely, the representations which were made to it to discharge its duties under the Aid-Raid Precautions Act.

There was also the failure of the council to carry out its duties in relation to the subsidiary local authorities, apart from the specific matters to which I have referred in my answer to the Deputy's question. In so far as the variable standard which the Deputy suggests is to be found in the fact that the county council did not discharge its financial obligations, may be said to apply in this case, that holds in all cases where a local authority does not fully perform its duty. I came to the conclusion that there was no hope with the existing administration in County Clare of having the situation which existed in regard to the county council and the various subsidiary bodies cleaned up as long as the members of the former county council remained in office.

Will the Minister say who is responsible for the fact that the county councillors of Clare first heard of the abolition of the county council through Radio Eireann? Will he say on what date the order was signed, on what date the order was sent to the county council, and at what time the information was sent to Radio Eireann for broadcasting?

That is a separate question. The original question sought information as to the reasons for removing the members of the council from office.

If the Deputy puts down a question in reference to these matters I shall answer it.